Regenerative Marketing for Green Businesses

Everywhere we look, our economy is changing in fundamental ways. Massive cultural shifts are not only forcing us to look at new ways of doing business, they are providing the opportunities for us to do so.

We recently celebrated our 11th year of making crystal recognition awards at Eclipse Awards, and since I founded the company all those years ago, I’ve never seen the pace of business move faster as companies struggle to stay relevant.  How do we take responsibility for the environmental impacts of our organizations?  Can we influence and change the standards of what people value or find beautiful?  What role do happiness, compassion and love have to play in business and how can we start talking about it in a way that doesn’t make people feel uncomfortable?  What does it mean for a business to create value today, and how does that legacy translate in the future?  These could be seen as scary questions if we remain attached to “business as usual”, but they become exciting prospects if we choose to see ourselves as “the ones we’ve been waiting for” to evolve the world of business in a positive and sustainable way.

Lately at Eclipse Awards, we’ve been working on a new style of marketing that we’re calling “Regenerative Marketing”. It’s a form of marketing that we hope will ultimately turn small businesses into engines of community revitalization and richness, rather than beasts of consumption. At Eclipse, we take our marketing budget and instead of pursuing traditional direct mail campaigns, we choose to support tangible, substantial projects that contribute value to either the environment or our community, or ideally both. Then we tell those stories through word of mouth and social media such as Twitter and Facebook (click here to join our fanpage). This focus has allowed us to develop and build meaningful community assets and relationships, while also conserving many of the resources normally associated with direct mail campaigns. We call it Regenerative Marketing in the sense that it helps regenerate both the community and the environment, while also helping to renew peoples’ confidence in businesses as a positive force in society.

At Eclipse Awards we take great pride in our commitment to excellence and the philosophy of recognition. We also place tremendous value on the quality of our work, our reliability and integrity, the happiness of our staff, and our commitment to sustainability and our community in the Downtown Eastside – indeed, these have become the very foundations of our company’s existence.

What people may not notice immediately though, is how we market our awards and company. You will definitely see us online at www.eclipseawards.com and possibly in some magazines. Word of mouth referrals, testimonials and notable clients have also contributed substantially to our growth. What you won’t see much of though, if at all, are printed materials, mailouts and catalogues. In part, this stems from our commitment to minimize our footprint by limiting our consumption of materials, or avoiding them altogether. In our experience, the majority of these promo materials typically end up in the landfill, fewer are recycled, and even fewer result in any sort of a sales. We also spent several years perfecting a photorealistic way of generating our award images by computer. In fact, DELL recognized us as one of Canada’s top 10 Most Innovative Small Businesses, in part for this reason, as it allowed us to virtually eliminate the need to create and ship actual samples. We’ve also invested heavily in technology to provide better, more efficient customer service, and we’ve used these freed resources to pursue more sustainability initiatives.

By reallocating our traditional marketing budget, Eclipse Awards has been able to:

  • build 2 green roofs with vegetable gardens that add beauty to our neighbourhood
  • support the St. James Music Academy that teaches at-risk youth in the Downtown Eastside how to play musical instruments
  • launch a free, community “sustainability library” that provides resources to people with shared interests in green business
  • host a mason bee “apartment” on our building to help with local biodiversity
  • provide free community meeting space for community and guerrilla gardeners and those interested in green roofs
  • and a whole range of other fun and enjoyable projects

These are lasting projects and assets that will benefit our community for years to come. In the past, we’ve pursued traditional marketing campaigns which had questionable value even two weeks later….how many flyer campaigns from last month can you recall?

Today’s consumers are intelligent, thoughtful and discerning…they can separate the real from the superficial and they yearn for integrity, authenticity and values in a service market that’s become devoid of service. Our clients love the fact that by using Eclipse Awards, they not only get world class service and personalized awards, they’re also empowering us to make our community a better place.

Admittedly, we are in new territory and learning as we go. The important thing is our fundamentals are in place – quality, service, reliability and convenience – so it gives us some freedom to explore new ways of doing things. Now, if ever, is the time to be bold and creative!

Will it work? Only time will tell. A lot depends on our ability to get these messages out through non-traditional channels and if clients will continue to value the types of sustainable, community projects that we pursue. In my mind though, the next generation of marketers will understand this new generation of marketing – substantial, positive and tangible projects, presented in a way that respects people’s intelligence. It’s working for our company, so maybe it will work for yours.

Can you imagine a reality in which small businesses support meaningful community projects become successful because of it? Imagine a new paradigm for business where building community gardens and green roofs, enabling renewable energy projects, supporting community arts, contributing to education, or caring for our elders are all in a days work. What kind of a world will we have created when happiness, creativity and compassion are how we measure success and why we reward one another in business?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on regenerative marketing. Email me your comments to toby@eclipseawards.com or follow me on twitter @tobybarazzuol. Can this work? Maybe you’re already doing something similar? Are there any things you’d like to see us try? Let us know because the future is simply what we all decide to make it.

Perceived Greenness of Brands

How green do Canadians think the leading brands are? That is the question Marc Stoiber and the rest of the crew over at Change set to find out.  They recently revamped their website and released a report they call MapChange.  It is available for download at their site.The MapChange project was undertaken to clarify two things: how committed Canada’s top brands are to the environment. And, how committed consumers think they are.

In the world of branding, what is real is only what is perceived to be real. What a brand does, good or bad, only affects its value if those actions change consumer opinion.

As companies across the globe race to adopt and brand sustainability for competitive advantage, consumers are becoming overloaded with green messaging, confused by the issues, and wary of greenwashing. Reality is becoming distorted.

Companies looking to win with sustainability branding must navigate this challenging landscape. Our goal was to figure out how well they’re doing.

Which companies have successfully branded sustainability? Which are not capturing the full value of their efforts? Which are benefiting from an unjustified green image?
What’s the difference between reality and perception?

This report will be of interest to anyone who runs a green business or is building a green brand.  Also of interest will be a post we made earlier on Targeting Socially Concious Consumers.  Below is an image mapping the greenness and perceived greenness of several popular brands in Canada which comes directly from the Change website.

Best Change Map

Thanks to Simon Dunne for the heads up.  They plan to resume blogging too, but it doesn’t appear they’re using WordPress.